PreneurCast is a marketing podcast. Author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.
This week, Pete talks with Ryan Holiday, author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, a fantastic look at PR and promotion in the modern age of blogs and social media. Ryan talks about the ideas behind the new book, which shows anyone how to promote using modern tools
Ryan talks about marketing and promotion using modern tools
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Conversation with Ryan Holiday
Dom Goucher: Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s PreneurCast. Dom here. We’ve had a few comments from people wondering where I’ve got to the last few weeks. We’ve had some excellent interviews and conversations with Pete, but I’ve not really been present in the podcast. Just thought I’d give you an update on that.
Two reasons, really. One, Pete has had some fantastic opportunities to have some great conversations with some pretty well-known people. We’ve already published a few of them, and we’re going to be publishing a few more in the next few weeks, and, well, it’s just an opportunity you can’t turn down when these kind of people turn up at your door and want to have a chat with you.
So that was great news for Pete. But also Pete and I have both been busy, hard at work on our Profit Hacks product. We’re entering into the final launch phase now, something that you folks are going to be finding more out about. We’re going to be doing a couple of special edition podcasts in the next few weeks just to let you know what’s going on with that and how it’s got along. Watch out for those.
This week, we are going to publish something that was recorded a little while ago: a conversation between Pete and Ryan Holiday. Ryan recently wrote a book, or published a book, called Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Now Ryan, you may or may not have heard of; but he’s worked behind the scenes with some very well-known and bestselling authors, including Tucker Max, Robert Greene, and Tim Ferriss.
Also, most famously, he’s been the marketing director of American Apparel from a very relatively young age. Pete, in this conversation, talks to Ryan all about his past, his work with these people, and his interesting approach to marketing and promotion, which is a subject of his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying.
[Pete’s conversation with Ryan starts]
Pete Williams: Most people are probably not familiar with the name Ryan Holiday, but I’m guessing most people would be very much aware of your work. You’ve worked behind the scenes with people like Tim Ferriss, Tucker Max, Robert Greene, but probably most famously been the marketing director of American Apparel since what, 24, 23? Is that right?
Ryan Holiday: Yeah. I deliberately want the work of my clients to overshadow my own. Usually, if you know the name of the publicist, that publicist is not serving their client’s interests as much as they’re serving their own. For me, it was doing the things that I do for people and keeping my name out of it.
Because if you’re talking about what you’re doing, it makes it a lot harder to actually do those things. This book has sort of been—it’s not a farewell for me, but it’s about changing the game up a little bit. I’m coming out and talking about myself and the things that I’ve done for the first time.
Pete: Very cool. It’s pretty clear you’re not afraid to work with edgy brands, for want of a better term. Are there any cool stories from the experiences and exploits?
Ryan: From my perspective, working with controversial clients is preferable to safe clients. I’d rather them be pushing me and my ideas and telling me, “Ryan, that’s too safe,” than the alternative, which is you putting a lot of time and energy into coming up with something creative and cool, and them saying, “Oh, you know what, that scares me. I don’t want to do it.”
I want to work with clients who scare me as much as I scare them. This year alone has been sort of a rundown of that. I did a stunt with Tucker where we paid a bunch of celebrities to tweet super-offensive things about themselves. We abused this platform that’s called Sponsored Tweets.
That was a huge thing. And then most recently, in promotion for one of his books, we tried to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after him because it was a joke in one of his books. Obviously, this is going to make some people talk. But the joke went like, that he came for so many abortions for girls he’d hooked up with that they should name a Planned Parenthood clinic after them.
So we sat down and said, “What if we actually tried to do that, what would happen?” That’s where a lot of the things I do come from. Someone throws out a crazy idea, and then we say, “What would happen if we actually did that?” And then we go out and do it.
Pete: With those two examples, from my understanding looking at if from afar, the majority of those two campaigns, for want of a better term, really came after the actual event themselves through the PR. Did you anticipate either of those two things to actually come off? Did you expect Kim Kardashian to approve those tweets? Did you think Planned Parenthood would accept the money? Or were you hoping they would reject it to make a media story out of it?
Ryan: Either way, it’s upside for me. A strategist used to say, “It’s not the action, it’s the reaction that the activist goes for.” For us, we’re doing this thing; and if it happens, it happens, that’s great. What we’re also really thinking about and anticipating is, how are people going to react and is that reaction something that will be good for us?
In those cases, we knew, chances are, the overreaction to the stunt would be a lot more entertaining and get a lot more attention than just the stunt coming off, even if it happened perfectly.
Pete: Brilliant. I absolutely love that. Speaking of the book, late last year, I think it was Gawker and GalleyCat that both reported that you got a $500,000 advance for your very first book, Trust Me, I’m Lying (people didn’t miss that in the introduction) which was quickly shut down by The New York Observer, saying that was all part of the pre-publicity. Do you have a take on that? What’s your response? Were you practicing what you’re preaching in the book with that particular report?
Ryan: I always practice what I preach, that’s what I do. The funny thing about the book advance is that, the fact is I got paid a lot of money for my first book. The reason I can’t tell you how much I got paid is that authors are not allowed to comment on the size of their advance, ever.
So, the people who were reporting that it was this number, and the people who were reporting that it was not that number, are both wrong because neither of them know what the number is. Only I know and only the publisher knows; and neither of us ever told anyone what that number was. That number has always been confidential. All I can say is that it was well into the six figures, and it was a lot of money.
That’s how it works. People on the internet create their own spectacle which they then get [sounds like] paid dues out of supposedly disputing. Neither GalleyCat nor The New York Observer actually bothered to talk to me for their stories. If anything, what I was trying to prove with the advance was that nobody does any work. People will talk about anything, and that’s exactly what happened.
Pete: So true. How are you describing the book? Because it’s all about media manipulations. What’s your description and why you’re communicating the book to the public?
Ryan: Media manipulation is basically the act of making people do or think things through the media that they otherwise might not think or do. If you had to explain what I do—we live in what’s called an ‘attention economy,’ where the most precious resource is peoples’ time and attention.
My job is to fight for and get attention for my clients through whatever the most effective and efficient means are. It just so happens that controlling and influencing and manipulating blogs, for the last three or four years, has been the best way to do that. And that’s what I’ve done.
Pete: Do you see that changing?
Ryan: I don’t see it changing. The book is about how to do that, and also what the consequences of doing that are. I lay it out in very explicit detail how someone can manipulate or control the media for their own brand or big brand. Then on the content provider side I say, “This stuff is happening, this is corrupting the material you’re doing. Is this how you want it to be?”
I don’t see it changing. I mean I’d like it to change, and part of writing the book was hoping that it would. But at the end of the day, I feel like a lot of the root forces that I talk about in the book are very deep and intrinsic, and they need to be addressed before matters of opinion can really shift anything.
Pete: As you said there, you hope it’s going to change. We don’t want to give away too much of what’s in the book. That’s full of some pretty cool case studies. But in the introduction, you talk about how this media manipulation encompassed you.
I think you get quoted at the start, saying from a novel, “Indulging myself in the illusions that we can deal in filth without becoming the thing we touch.” I love that quote, and I love that novel. Do you find this a bit like a church confessional for you, putting the book together? Is that part of what it was meant to do?
Ryan: Confession is in the subtitle for a reason. I really wanted to expose it to people because I think it’s important and I think it matters. I found it hard to think or talk about anything else. So part of it came out of my obsession. I don’t feel guilty about anything. That’s not where I’m coming from the book. This isn’t like, “I did all these bad things, please forgive me.”
It’s more like, “Look, I saw behind the curtain, and I know what goes on there. I survived and thrived in that world better than anyone. Now I’m back on the other side and I want to tell you guys what’s going on back there either to prepare you for it or to help you dismantle it.” This is how it works and I’m talking about it amorally rather than judgmentally.
Pete: It’s definitely going to prepare people and warn them. It’d be interesting to see how many people start trying to replicate the types of campaigns and manipulation that you pioneered.
Ryan: I think it’s already happened. I’ve already been getting emails from people telling me, “I did exactly what you were saying that you do.” And it’s like, “Uh, I think you read the book wrong. But good luck to you, man. I hope it works out.” That’s the thing.
You play with fire, you do get burned sometimes. I try to make it very clear that this is playing with fire. You’ve got to be a professional and you’ve got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to know that it’s inevitable that it’s going to escape your control.
Pete: It’s always hard to control someone’s interpretation of something. You can always write the best book you can, but you can’t really control how they interpret it and run with it. I guess the old adage of, ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is ingrained in a lot of people, whether it’s right or wrong. They’ll run with it just to get the publicity.
Ryan: That’s what I talk about in the book too. I don’t fault people for taking advantage of the system. If you invested a lot of your money into making a product, or you spent two years of your life writing a book, or you depend on your blog to feed your family, you’re not going to sit back and go, “I’m not going to do that.”
These things are there, they’re easy to take advantage of, and they’re very lucrative for people to play with. The system is essentially asking for people to do that, if it’s going to leave itself so undefended. I’m hoping that the book can open some people’s minds to that thing and make it a little bit more difficult, because I don’t think anyone benefits from rampant media manipulation.
Pete: Very true. Something you mentioned there was a really good point, about people investing a year or two years of their life producing a product, whether it’s a book or a new web start-up or a physical product, the next nuclear-powered mousetrap or something like that. Whatever it might be, they spend so much time invested in making a product.
Something you said which I really loved in your conversation with Chase Jarvis on Chase Jarvis LIVE. It was really refreshing to hear, and it was something that I agree with quite heavily, in that it’s not about the product. You don’t often hear other people preaching the importance of marketing and how much more important that is than just creating good shit.
Ryan: Actually, when we were having that conversation, Chase said it well. We take it for granted that what you’re making is worth people seeing, and it’s good. Because if it’s not, it’s sort of none of this shit matters. But the reality is, just making good stuff never has been and it never will be enough.
It’s not like how you used to write books: you spend two years on a typewriter, then you mail the only copy of your manuscript out to Scribner’s in New York, and six months later they send you your first check and tell you it’s going to be in stores.
That’s just not how it works. If you want people to know about your book, you’ve got to jam it down their throats. You’ve got to make this a marketing sensation if it’s going to move copies. People are totally caught off guard by that. They think, “Okay, I’ll start thinking about marketing like two weeks before my product comes out.”
The reality is, they’re going to have to spend more than two weeks just researching before they even start marketing. They’re going to have to spend two months marketing. What I’ve been talking to a lot of people about is thinking about how you can build that marketing mindset into the products you make, because that’s the only way you’re going to survive.
There’s a million blogs out there publishing a million posts a day, being read by millions of very busy people. If you want to shatter through that noise, it’s not going to happen accidentally, that’s for sure.
Pete: Absolutely. It’s just sad so many people spend all their time worrying about a product before they even do any market research and know there’s people out there wanting to buy it. It’s a big faux pas that a lot of people have. Having said that, you’ve done the book trial; that’s already been released. Nice job, I really enjoyed it.
Ryan: Thank you.
Pete: That is a staple these days, Tim really popularized it, for want of a better term, with his The 4-Hour Body book. What else have you got planned for the marketing of this book? We might as well share some of the secrets. No doubt the book’s great. I’ve read, not all of it, I only got it a few hours ago from your publicist.
I’ve only been able to devour the first little bit of the contents. I was cramming it through before I jumped on the call. What’s planned for this? Because the book’s good, but you’re a marketer. What’s the marketing look like?
Ryan: There’s no way I was going to write a book about marketing and then not use all the stuff that I talk about in book.
Pete: Let me interrupt you for two seconds—sorry, Ryan. I think you’re in a much better position than I am. Some of the listeners may know that I had my first book published when I was 21, so a little bit younger than you, but it was a marketing book as well. The battle that I had with the marketing team at the publicist; it was Wiley, which is one of the larger publishers.
I remember having almost yelling matches, going, “You are paying me to write a marketing book, but you’re not listening to me about how to market the damn book.” It just did not make friggin’ sense to me and it was so frustrating. So many authors I’ve talked to have that similar sort of battle. I think it’s good being in the position you are now, with the way the Internet has really taken on in the last 10 years. Publishers have to be more aware about the need to market and be a bit more open.
Ryan: Of course. I’ve had many of those conversations, both while doing my own book and doing books for other people. That goes back to what we were just saying. If you’re publishing a book and you think the publisher is going to take care of selling it for you, you are going to have a very rude awakening on your release date when you sell zero copies, because that’s just not what they do. Publishing houses are basically really good at distributing and editing books, and that’s about it.
Authors do their own marketing. Knowing that going in and knowing I was writing a marketing book, it was like, “I have to completely take on this burden and I can’t count on anyone else to make this stuff happen.” I knew that going in. I very much thought about, “How can I use this opportunity to market the book to prove the stuff that I’m talking about and come up with case studies and examples, and reinforce all the things I’ve talked about?”
For instance, knowing that the online media cycle drives the offline cycle, and the offline cycle looks for proof of newsworthiness and they’re slower to get going, all my Internet press is coming first week, knowing that that’s where the mainstream media gets their news leads. I have an old-school A-list publicity guy that I hired, but I know that she’s not going to be coming through with me until I do the heavy online lifting myself.
The New York Times isn’t going to just do a profile of some kid they’ve never heard of. That kid’s got to be a hot news topic for them to jump on it. I’m using the first week as proof of concept to draw a lot of web attention, doing podcasts and guest posts and interviews and Skype shows and web shows.
Anything I can do to get attention on the Internet that I’m going to make sure registers on the radar of the mainstream press, and also registers on the radar of the [other types of] people, like doing book signing at Barnes & Noble and Amazon and Books-A-Million.
I have a couple stunts planned, because that’s what I specialize in. I can’t give them away because then they won’t be as awesome; but I’ve got some stuff planned. I very much intend for this book to generate a lot of controversy and to get a lot of attention. It’s going to do that because I wrote the book to make that happen, and I did the research and identified the influencers that are going to set that off.
Pete: Coming back to what you said before, you were planning the marketing as you were creating the product. You tie in some elements into the content that will actually drive the marketing just by purely being highly controversial content.
Ryan: You’ve got to think about the attention you want to get, and the people that you want to write about you and cover your book. Then you’ve got to back your way out from there, how to make it happen. You don’t just write a random stream of consciousness and then go, “I hope the Washington Post is into this.
I hope I get covered in USA Today,” because that’s just not going to happen. If you want to get covered by them, you’ve got to think about the things that they cover, and make sure that your thing fits in that wheelhouse.
Pete: Are you expecting places like Gawker and GalleyCat to support the book, either directly or indirectly, by talking about it because they’ve been featured in there and they need to respond? Or do you think they’re going to talk about all the stuff that’s happening?
Ryan: I certainly hope that they respond. I think what they’ll find when they do see the book, because obviously it’s been heavily embargoed and not a lot of people have gotten their hands on it. I hope that they see that the book is a lot more thoughtful and a lot more researched and deliberate and conscientious about these things that affect a lot of people than maybe they would have expected from the title or the cover of some of the existing coverage.
I just did a 25,000-word article for Columbia Journalism Review. If this is a book about tricking people, I don’t think that the smart, educated outlets would be receptive to my methods; but it turns out that they are.
Pete: Very, very cool. You mentioned just then about ‘very heavily researched.’ In your review of Steven Pressfield’s latest book, you wrote, “I’m not sure if Turning Pro has the same shock to the system as The War of Art, but it’s still a great and necessary book.”
Now I love Steven’s stuff. It’s incredible; about getting through resistance and the creativity process. How did you find the writing and creative process of putting together Trust Me, I’m Lying?
Ryan: I was very fortunate that I’ve worked with a bunch of authors before. Part of the reason I worked for them is I had no idea how to do a book. You read a lot of books, but you don’t know. You don’t know how to write a song until you know how to play the instruments.
You’ve got to know how they work together, how you start, how you build this thing. For me, part of the reason I apprenticed under these authors is I really wanted to observe them at their craft, and see how they did what they do. It was in that process, and helping them and working with them and asking them a lot of questions that I figured it out.
So for me, writing a book was a lot easier. I actually did the whole book in less than three months—the writing. The research had taken another year before that. For me, the writing process was a lot harder, but also easier than I thought. When you do your preparation in the gym before you get out on the court, it’s always easier to win.
I spent my time practicing and learning and talking to smart people. So when it came time to write my book, it was really just about knowing what I was trying to do and what I was trying to write, then just actually doing it.
Pete: Are there any particular takeaways you were able to get from Tucker [Max] and Robert [Greene] about the creative and writing process, besides just getting your butt in a chair and typing the keys?
Ryan: You win it long before game day, like I’m saying. You’ve got to research the shit out of whatever you’re talking about. Even Tucker; you’d think that Tucker’s writing funny stories about himself because that requires no research. That guy has read every book about comedy and humor and memoir and non-fiction and fiction that you can imagine.
He has more books than I do. He’s studied that field so deeply, that then when he has something to say about himself, he knows the best way to do it. Robert obviously is one of the most voracious researchers and historians on the planet, I would say.
If you are not doing that level of research, don’t expect to write a book as good as they have. I committed that to myself that I wasn’t going to write some sort of anecdotal marketing book. I really wanted to write something that was backed up by the facts, and that’s what I tried to do.
Pete: That’s where you started, wasn’t it? When you first started working with Robert Greene was researching his The 50th Law book. Is that correct, or am I putting two stories together?
Ryan: That is correct. I was Robert’s research assistant for the last four or five years now, I think. I really learned his system, and I put my own spin on it when I was finally the one who was in control—when it’s about me and not about who I’m serving, a larger client; any research I did, I credit to Robert. He showed me how to do it.
Pete: What does that system look like? Can you share a bit? You mentioned that you learned Robert’s system and you’ve developed your own. What does research for a book look like?
Ryan: It requires reading very deeply into topics and chasing down all these leads, and then you record your thoughts or the themes or connections that you’re doing. I do them on index cards or I take notes on [sounds like] collaboration docs or something.
Then once you have this collection of themes, it’s about grouping those themes together and noticing patterns and connections between those themes. When I’m researching a book, I’m reading all these things about media and influence and manipulation and such, and then I’m noticing patterns. Then as I collected, let’s say, 10 examples of this pattern, it’ll be something like, “Oh, that might be a chapter.”
So by the time I sat down to write, I had every chapter essentially all outlined and worked up before I sat down to write any of the sentences. I knew what I was going to say and what I was going to use to support those things before I sat down at a blank screen.
Pete: I’d like to delve into the reading and education, which is the other side of the fence, sort of where we’re leading to. I don’t want to go too much into your reading rituals, because you write about that on your Forbes column and on your blog and things like that. But, two question about your readings.
You do say from a ritual perspective that you should always get your next book from the book you’ve just read. Once people hit Amazon.com right now and grab a copy of Trust Me, I’m Lying, what is the next book they should buy at the same time that’s mentioned in your book right now to save on shipping? What’s that second book they should read after yours?
Ryan: That’s an interesting question, because I actually have a further reading section at the back of the book. The two books that influenced me the most when I was writing this were The Brass Check by Upton Sinclair, which was a muckraking exposé of journalism in the early 1900’s.
I also liked this book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, which I think was a very incisive analysis of the effects on culture that television has had. I applied what they were talking about, although they were specifically talking about two very different things. I applied the lens that they were using to what we’re talking about in this book, which is media and blogs.
I like to find the next book in the book that I’m reading because I’m going to get that much more out of the next book because I’m bridging the two. You’re getting 100% more material, but it’s only like 30% or 40% more work. I like those multipliers.
Pete: Very, very cool. You mentioned before that Tucker’s probably the only person that you know that’s got a bigger reading library than you. I’ve had some conversations with Tucker, and he’s ridiculous when it come to content consumption and reading. What sparked that passion for you? You read, from my understanding, four or five books a week?
Ryan: I read as much as I conceivably can, whenever I’m interested in doing it. I don’t have quotas or anything. I just love reading, so I do it a lot.
Pete: What sparked that passion?
Ryan: I’ve always loved reading as a kid. I think honestly that everyone loves reading, it’s just some people are exposed to books that change their life really early on, so those people know that reading is worth their time. And I think that a lot of people aren’t introduced to the right books. I was really fortunate in that I had mentors my whole life who were constantly recommending good books that changed how I thought about those things.
Tucker was certainly one of those people very early on, “Read this. Read this. Read this. Now read this. Now read this.” I read them all, and I love them, and they changed my life. Now I see a firm cause and effect between reading a book and getting something out of it. So I do it as much as I can now.
Pete: Taking that mentor approach, if you had a 16-year-old nephew or a godson, besides The Game by Neil Strauss, what would you recommend they read as a 16-year-old to not only learn from, but also to learn to love to read?
Ryan: It’s hard, because I think it all depends on the person and it depends on where they live. For instance, one of the things they can be the most excited about reading is reading about the place that I’m currently at. You grew up in New York City, you should be reading all the great books about New York City.
You can read something and then understand why the place you live is the way that it is. Just in terms of really general books that can change people, I think Ender’s Game is a great book for young people. I read The Great Gatsby when I was a kid, that profoundly influenced me.
I like the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Robert’s books, if the kid is young or experienced enough, I think that those are important. I’d really tailor a reading list to the kid and their personality, and recommend books that maybe you didn’t love, but you think that they’ll love. It’s about catching that fire inside of them. Not necessarily forcing them to read the classics, because the classics don’t work for everyone.
Pete: I completely agree. So I guess what you’re saying is, you go to read a book that matches the market and really supports the person. Why the heck did you read Fifty Shades of Grey?
Ryan: Any book that can sell 20 million copies, that comes out of left field and shocks and disgusts everyone in the publishing industry, says to me, “This book has something special in it.” What is it speaking to? Why is it resonating with people? I wanted to figure that out. I’m not sure I’ve cracked it, but I have a better idea than if I was just guessing.
Pete: This book almost goes against what we’ve been talking about for the last half hour, because it’s not a well-written book by any stretch of the imagination.
Ryan: Fifty Shades of Grey?
Ryan: But it’s a book that makes people talk. So the fact that it’s not very good almost works to its advantage, right? I would say that a significant amount of its sales have been driven by people talking about how much better they are than the book.
Pete: Do you know what the marketing story is behind that book? Because it’s come from nowhere. It’s fan fiction from Twilight.
Ryan: A little bit. The book was actually Twilight fan fiction, not a lot of people know that. It started as Twilight fan fiction, so it had a core audience of loyal people who are open and accepting to lower-quality work, to put it lightly. Then she self-published, she put it on Amazon, it was at a low price.
Basically, things that would usually count against a book, like being of a weird subject matter and being self-published on the Internet, actually worked to its advantage in the sense that it made the cost of reading it and experimenting with it really low.
If this book had started on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, it’s not going to have the same viral dispersion the way that it did online because, who’s going to want to pick up a book that looks shitty and pay $26 for it? You know what I mean? I think that was going for it, and then I don’t know. It clearly spoke to something that we as a society don’t understand or don’t serve in women, as far as books are concerned.
There’s a lot of shitty BDSM books out there, and they haven’t sold 20 million copies. What is it about this one that made it so successful? I don’t know. I think anyone that tells you some simple answer is probably full of shit. I would guess it’s not sex. Again, because there’s a lot of books about sex.
Pete: Mills & Boon has been around forever.
Ryan: Yeah. So, I think this is something that’s not that.
Pete: Are you going to reread it to find out?
Ryan: No. It’s pretty awful, man. I’m not going to suggest, I sucked it up a bit.
Pete: So, if it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey, what is next for you after the book? The next, hopefully, two or so months is really driving the book sales, hitting The New York Times list, and obviously having a lot of conversation with people about the book.
What is next? Are you still going to be working with Tim on his next book? Has Robert got a new book coming out you’re working on? Are you going to stick working with Dov [Charney] and American Apparel? What’s next?
Ryan: I’m booked solid with book launches for the next, probably, six or eight months. Just with clients that I really like working with and I’m really excited about. I think people will like it and I hope they pick it up. Even if they don’t, I’ve got more than enough work to keep me busy. For me it’s all upside, which is kind of the ideal position to be in.
Pete: Are you still full-time at American Apparel, or has the role changed in the last 12 months or so?
Ryan: The role has changed. I’m more of an adviser than a full day-to-day person. But I work with them on projects constantly. I talk to Dov, the owner, on almost a daily basis. It’s a company I care a lot about and I think they’re doing really awesome things and doesn’t deserve to have been raked over the coals by the Internet publicity machine the way that it was.
Part of writing this book was about setting that record straight, too. I’m always going to consider American Apparel a big part of what I do, just because they’ve done so much for me and I care so much about what they do.
Pete: Given the PR calls that you’ve mentioned, do you think this book’s going to fuel the fire a bit more because you come out saying, “We manipulated all these stories”?
Ryan: Is there going to be some people who latch onto that? Yes, but what I really want people to see is the fact that so much of what they’ve read and gotten outraged by and talked about is really just totally untrue. And that’s bad. What does it mean when you’ve written someone off as this evil monster the way they have Dov, when the information that you’re using to make that decision is [inaccurate]?
That’s one of the big things I try to focus on the book—we’re so quick to indict and write someone off based on information that we read on blogs. So let me tell you where blogs get their information. I think you’re going to be a little sobered by that thought.
Pete: I couldn’t agree more. I think what Dov’s done, particularly the way to make a business model work where they’re actually producing everything in LA or at least in America. They’re not offshoring production. Just from a business-model perspective, I think he’s done an exceptionally good job to build a company of that size revenue.
There’s been CBS reports and similar things where the cash flow ability to business is going through some rocky times. But to build a sustainable business so far that size where everything’s done on American soil is a phenomenal effort.
Ryan: That’s always what I thought, and I think it’s a disgrace that the story that blogs have decided to publish is instead the one about the suspect rumors and controversies and all that kind of bullshit. Part of the reason what motivated writing the book was having an inside look at people like Dov, and Tucker, and even Robert to some degree, and seeing how misrepresented they were to the public.
Because for blogs to represent them properly would be too much work or take too much time or not be that interesting. Really, it disgusted me and I felt like that wasn’t fair or right. So, the things that I’ve done on their behalf have always been about making up for that deficiency. Then I realized, that’s never going to solve the problem. If I want to solve the problem, I’ve got to explain what its root causes are. I hope I’ve done that in the book.
Pete: You mention Robert and Dov, and Tucker. But you’ve worked with Tim Ferriss as well, who’s a New York Times bestselling author, but is far less controversial in his approach and his material. Have you found any differences between those two groups of people, working with them?
Ryan: My relationship with Tim is much more of one as a friend and not as an adviser. Part of the reason is that he doesn’t need someone like me because his attention has always been positive. The system treats him much more fairly because he fits more in their conception of what an author or a self-help guy should be like.
Tim is less complicated than some of these other things, and that’s great for him because it means he’s treated more fairly. It just happens that other people who are more complicated or complex, or have good sides and bad sides, they don’t get treated the same way. So I have to come in and work my magic.
Pete: One final question, and I’ll let you get back to beautiful New Orleans. What’s the one question I haven’t asked you that you want me to ask or to lead you to talk about?
Ryan: I don’t really have one. I feel like this has been a great interview. This has been cool. Most people don’t take the time to read the book or think about the person they’re talking with. You made me think about things. You can do that because you have a podcast with real fans who listen to what you do, and they trust you. You support them and they support you.
That’s always refreshing for me to be able to get a glimpse of that world, rather than the one that I spend way too much time with, which is where bloggers are screwing over their readers and publicists are screwing over the bloggers. It’s just this big cycle of deception all the way down.
Pete: Awesome. Very cool. So, the book is out July 19th, Trust Me, I’m Lying. I love the title. Did you do a split test like Tim did with The 4-Hour Workweek?
Ryan: Of course. This was the one that tested off the charts.
Pete: It’s available everywhere that good books are sold. Typical tag line there. But definitely check it out. Like I said, I got a copy of it only a couple of hours ago from the publicist. I literally knew it was coming overnight. I actually got up at about 4:30 am this morning. I’m normally up at five, so it wasn’t that much earlier for me. I’m a morning person.
Tried to devour as much as I could prior to the conversation today; and I must say, it’s definitely engaging. I have no doubt that I’ll finish the galley version of the book before the day’s out. Ryan Holiday, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. I’m sure the listeners have got some huge feedback, and I know that a lot of them will go out and buy a copy of Trust Me, I’m Lying.
Ryan: Thank you for having me.
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